Changing Things Up, Y’all!

POLISHING UP THE OLD

I’ve been working my ass off these last few weeks. One of the things I’ve been doing is taking old blog posts from sites I had prior to Wayward Sparkles, polishing them up a bit and then re-publishing them under the category, “Before WWS.” Except, there have been a few blog posts that once I started editing … well, they kind of took on a life of their own … and expanded way beyond what I had anticipated. These have now become stories of eight pages or more and won’t make it on this site.

MY MOTHER’S DAUGHTER

One story that had completely outgrown blog post parameters, but that I loved so much, was “My Mother’s Daughter.” I had to figure out a way to put it on this site. So it’s now become both a post as well as a full-blown story that may go into a book some day. I chopped a full 500 words (maybe more) from the story version to make the post. I hope you check it out and enjoy it as much as I do! It’s in the category, “Before WWS.”

LEXI, MY SOCIAL MEDIA GURU AND BRANDING

The other thing I’ve been doing is working with Lexi. She’s kind, knowledgeable and incredibly patient with me while trying to teach me all things social media. I’m not the easiest student to work with and am somewhat pig-headed, but I’m trying. She’s amazing! It took her four hours to coax me into coming up with my “brand.” Once I said what she wanted to hear, though … well, it was so simple. I don’t know why it took me so long.

Anyway, I was so thrilled that I quickly put it on my “About” page under the picture of the robot before I forgot it, “I’m just an ordinary woman who Life continually hands lemons to in the most absurd ways at the most inopportune times. This is my humorous and sometimes ironic take!”

My brand is supposed to explain who and what my blog and writing is about in two short sentences. My tagline, “… I don’t make lemonade … I make Arnold Palmers,” is, apparently, too vague. Well, of course. I see that now! Lexi earned her angel wings during that session!

HOMEWORK

Lexi’s also been giving me homework. I’m trying to fit that into my schedule as well. Okay, I’ve been lousy about doing my homework. I’m supposed to come up with a bulletin board full of pictures of things I like so that we can draw inspiration from it to eventually enhance my blog site. So it will represent … me!

I’m also supposed to be playing around with Instagram and Pinterest!

I’m also supposed to be doing homework from an online class that Lexi suggested I order from the A Beautiful Mess website about designing blogs. It’s really cool. If you’re designing your own blog, check it out – it does cost money, though! And, if you don’t use it – it can’t help you! I’m getting right on my ABM lessons when I’m finished with this blog post!

I’m so far behind!

RESEARCH ON OTHER PEOPLE’S BLOGS

We’ve researched a ton of other people’s blogs to see how they convey their brands. What do I like about each site? What makes it stand out? What do I not like? If I’m writing shortened stories/posts on my site, how can I get people to read them? It’s been interesting, yet daunting. Lexi says the look of my website needs to represent my brand. I thought that maybe lemons in the background might tie in with my tagline, but I don’t think she’s convinced. She told me to just work on my board and we’ll go from there. Hey, she was right about the whole brand thing, so what do I know! It’s just that there are so many different sides to me.

One very cool thing – Lexi showed me how to change the color of my text on the blog. I had no idea and thought I was stuck with black font only. Oh, the possibilities!

THE NEW WRITERS GROUP MEETING AT STARBUCKS

The other thing I’ve been doing is going to new writers meet ups in my general vicinity. There are a bunch of groups out there. I got lost trying to get to one that met at a Starbucks in a different city. I ended up at the wrong Starbucks, of course, and then ended up on the wrong highway. (I was on the business highway by the same name.) I eventually ended up at the right location, but was over an hour late.

I met with the person who set up the meeting, everyone else had finished and had already gone. She read and said she liked the two stories I’d brought (she’s a fast reader) and then looked over my blog. She suggested that my posts were too long(ish) and that I should consider shorter paragraphs so I won’t scare potential readers away. (Like I’m sure I’m doing right now!) Also, she says there’s a problem and she can’t subscribe to my site. Well, of course there is! I’m looking into it. At least I’ve shortened the paragraphs and titled them for easy reference. Baby steps, y’all, baby steps.

PARAGRAPHS IN THE NEW CENTURY

*sigh* Paragraphs just aren’t what they used to be. Like everything else over the last several years, you’re just not getting the same bang for your buck! Less is, apparently, more … somehow. Whatever.

OTHER NEW WRITERS GROUPS 

One of the groups I went to was an “introduce yourself” meeting. It consists of a fun-loving group of like-minded men and women. This coming week, we’re going to read now that we know who each other is and what to expect … sort of.

Also, I went to a writers group that only meets once a month and seems very promising – except, I’d prefer to meet more than once a month. I got great feedback and gave good feedback (I know … that sounds dirty, doesn’t it?) Everyone there seemed to be hardcore into presenting their best work and also giving and getting informative yet encouraging critique. The strategy behind going to all of these different groups is simple: expand my audience, network, get different perspectives, get inspiration, learn new techniques, enhance existing skills and have fun in the process.

THE ORIGINAL WRITERS GROUP 

Lastly, yet always first, our weekly writers group (who is now in its third year) has been super busy over the last couple of months or so:

One of us moved to Austin in August. Yes, we are sad! Never fear, though, we haven’t let that get in the way! We love her so much (not to mention we’re hooked on her writing – and she has an extraordinary gift) that we (and by we, I mean our fearless leader) has learned to Skype with her so that we can continue to all be together at each meeting. Thank God for technology … and our fearless leader!

One of us has had extraordinary circumstances requiring extensive travel – she has our prayers. Even so, she managed to provide the loveliest dinner to celebrate our Austin-based friend visiting week before last. Our “lovely” hostess (this is an inside joke, y’all) took it upon herself to write a story about going to King Ranch when she was younger − and then to continue the theme − she made King Ranch casserole for dinner! It was absolutely delicious, along with green beans and a yummy salad! She served the prettiest or should I say “loveliest” angel food cake layered with different flavors of sorbet all frosted over in whipped topping. It was refreshing and the perfect ending to a wonderful get together! The astonishing thing is: she received a phone call earlier that day that required her to make spur-of-the-moment reservations to get up early the next morning and catch a flight. She could easily have canceled the dinner, everyone would have understood – but she chose to host us anyway! What a trooper and a classy broad!

Two of us recently returned from England after doing the whole Downton Abbey tour thing! Unfortunately, our fearless leader went several days without luggage when hers failed to arrive. This required her to rinse out and wear the same outfit for more days than she’d care to admit. Also, she met some “interesting” people on this trip. Chalk this up to: more fodder for writing! The other arrived home not feeling her best, but I’m glad to report that she’s made a full recovery!

One of us has also traveled a tremendous amount this past summer and into fall and also, just recently, got an awesome opportunity to work in what sounds like – well, a very posh office suite to help out a friend on a temporary basis! I hope she takes lots of pictures to show us what her new office with the incredible view overlooking downtown looks like! I also want to mention that in July, she hosted a wonderful combination going away dinner (for our Austin friend) and a we’re-so-proud-of-you-for-graduating-college dinner for me! It was bittersweet and, yet, an amazingly good time all at once. No one knew it, but I was having a bit of a depressive spell at the time because that’s just part of who I am – and this party really helped pull me out of my funk! Bless you for that and for also helping me celebrate something that only took me 32 years to do!

BTW, one of us, yours truly, graduated college with her BS in psychology in May 2015. I didn’t know I’d graduated for sure until well into June and didn’t actually receive my diploma until mid July. It’s a long story … but I did it, y’all! I’m a college grad!

Several of us decided to get an amuse bouche of what The Texas Book Festival will be offering in October when we saw Laura P. Castoro speak on a gorgeous, late summer, Saturday afternoon! Laura is a local DFW author who has written nearly 50 books since the 1980’s. Currently, she’s working on a series of fictional books about different canines trained to work with law enforcement. I think the stories are really about the relationship between the dogs and their handlers, but since I haven’t read any of her books, that’s only my educated guess. Laura discussed the challenges (including discrimination) she’s encountered and then triumphed over in the world of publishing. You show em how it’s done, Laura! She also discussed current writing trends and what it’s like to work with and expect from editors. The best piece of advice I took from her was (and I’m paraphrasing,) “Be kind to writers when giving feedback! It’s a tough job and writers put their all out on the page!” Here, here!

Lastly, some are getting ready to head out to Austin for The Texas Book Festival 2015 and will also get to visit our friend in her new digs!

I’m sure I’ve left something or, perhaps, a lot out. We’re a bunch of busy ladies. I didn’t want to get too personal or use people’s names. They know who they are! For the rest of you, these are a wonderful bunch of women who have great strengths, amazing talent and who lead extraordinary lives. Each has a unique, clear voice that comes through in her writing, and I’m blessed and grateful to call each of them a friend! (And, no, they didn’t pay me to write any of this!) Also, David, my husband, says I’m getting all “kissy, kissy,” so I’ll stop now.

CONTINUING ED COURSE ON CONTENT WRITING BASICS

I was all set to take a continuing ed course on content writing basics because I don’t want to limit my writing opportunities and I want to learn everything. But at the last minute, the class didn’t make. Cest la vie! Spring, maybe?

SPAM-A-LOT

I have to mention … I was getting a lot of spam on my blog site − only I didn’t originally know that all of it was spam. I suppose it was somewhat suspicious that all of the comments I received were coming in over only one of my posts … and that most … okay, all of these comments didn’t necessarily have anything to do with my actual post … or make much sense. Still, a girl can dream!

Lexi pointed out that I was being given a snow job by all of these spammers who were saying nice things about my “article.” She said no one had actually read any of my posts or even visited. They were … dum, dum, dum … computer-generated, generic responses. Apparently, the goal of spammers is to take advantage of some algorithm that gets them onto a vulnerable site (mine), give responses that make you think they’re human beings so they’ll get approved, and then once approved, their websites show up in the comment section of the website. This is free advertising, apparently.

Ha! Joke’s on you, spammers! So far, damn few except other computers even know my blog exists! Try selling whatever it is you’re selling to other computers and see just how far you get!

Anyway, Lexi took care of those m.f.’ers! I had well over 300 spam responses in my reply section! Lexi made me erase them all so I wouldn’t look … unprofessional. Sigh.

Then I felt completely lost and alone in internet space with zero responses to any of my posts until a very good friend of mine saved me by sending me the kindest reply … ever! She’s my first official responder on this blog! (I know, I make her sound like an EMT, but she truly is a life saver!) Because of what she did for me, you’d think I’d repay her for her kindness with something like … money … instead of just being grateful. Hey, I made her sound like a medic!

PATRICIA

To Patricia, I’ll always be grateful! Thank you for not making me stay out here in the blogosphere all by myself! Also, I’ll vouch for you as being medically trained … if you ever need that from me!

SUMMARY

I know this has been an extra long post, but I think I’ve caught up on most of my writing stuff! Some of these entries will end up getting detailed out because that’s what I do − I see my life as moments/short stories in time. In the meantime, they’ll be reminders of so much writing I’ve yet to do!

Next week should be extremely busy, what with more writers groups to visit –hopefully, I’ll be able to post about meeting Jenny Lawson at her book signing this past Saturday. Also, I’ll try and update you on the diet. And let’s not forget about the new fall TV schedule! Yep, it’s definitely going to be another busy week!

TTFN, Y’ALL

2 thoughts on “Changing Things Up, Y’all!”

  1. I appreciate all the kind words you have for our writing group, but of course you left out what gifts we receive from you. I think I can speak for all of us that we depend on your insightful criticism in analyzing our stories. (I have days when I come to writing and I know I have written words that are not a story – and I can depend on you to tell me so – thank heavens!)
    You are gifted in storytelling. I’m in awe of how you can describe your life and inner thoughts so succinctly. Every time you read I know I will hear a story that is pleasurable, whether funny, biting, or sad – or all three!

    • Aw shucks! It’s been my pleasure, and I thank all of you for putting up with me! Thanks for your kind comments and for visiting my blog! Keep writing, my friend! See you soon.

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